On August 12, 2017, a group of white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia. The day was a disaster, with violence in the streets and Heather Heyer murdered by a man who drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters. The ACLU of Virginia had represented Jason Kessler, the march organizer, in a First Amendment lawsuit when city officials attempted to move the location of the event. The ACLU’s representation of Kessler has renewed debate, both inside and outside the organization, about its role as a prominent defender of both free speech and racial justice. With white supremacy rearing its head, can the same organization effectively advance both principles?
Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, and Ben Wizner, director of the organization’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, reflect on the ongoing debate.
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